Why do Borough need new investment? We all thought the club is doing rather well!
The past three or four seasons have seen Eastbourne Borough turn from a slightly wobbly outfit scrambling to escape relegation, into a flourishing National South club with healthy crowds, flourishing women’s and youth sections and a spirit of fun under Danny Bloor’s “let’s be having you!” leadership on the field – and with much hard work by directors and commercial managers behind the scenes.
But keeping a non-league club afloat costs a fortune. Not just the first team wage budget, and their kit and equipment. The stadium, possibly showing its age just a little, has to be maintained and renovated. Energy bills have to be paid. Travel costs are set to soar next season, with several new opponents from the far West Country joining National South. Torquay, Truro, Weston, among others. Just pray that Merthyr Tydfil and Jersey Bulls don’t enjoy a promotion-winning 23-24 season… Seriously, the bills are daunting.
This isn’t a fire sale. Eastbourne Borough is very much a flourishing outfit – but to really prosper, and to aim for the National League or even the Football League, the club would be short-sighted not to welcome new investment.
Hmm, big new sponsors. Haven’t we seen this before? Why is it different this time?
Yes, the club’s directors have talked to various investors in the past. About a decade ago, for example, there were advanced discussions with a potential investor who – while perfectly genuine – switched his interest to another club, nearer London, after the Board insisted on conditions that would guarantee the club’s future. It is probably a reassurance to supporters that the Borough board has always treated external approaches with caution.
Come on, spill the beans. Who is this latest investor or investors? Why the secrecy?
Not secrecy, simply correct procedure. This is, or will be, a huge agreement with both legal and financial aspects which will, or would, change the football club’s future. Clubhouse gossip and speculation are understandable – but fans will need to be patient. All parties are completing their due diligence, and everything is on track: the investor’s bona fides are not in doubt. David Blackmore and his board have done supporters the courtesy of a headline announcement, as soon as it appeared to them likely that a deal would be agreed and everyone is acting in good faith.
Isn’t the club’s CIC structure designed to guard its future and community role?
A fair question, and one which the Board will no doubt address, if and when the plans are finalised. But be clear: this is not what the business world would term a “hostile bid”. All parties will have exactly the same aims and objectives – a flourishing community football club with at least a chance of giving the town its first ever Football League club.
Fine words – but English football has a long history of clubs having their assets stripped and disappearing. What’s to stop Priory Lane turning into a housing estate or a bunch of industrial units?
Well, a whole bunch of legal constraints and covenants, for a start! The CIC will continue to have a minority shareholding in the new club, with enhanced voting rights on major decisions for the immediate future, to ensure the club’s community focus. The Acorns Trust – effectively the guardians of the club’s heritage – will remain the its landlord and the proposed 150 year lease will ensure that the extensive grounds can only ever be developed for sporting and recreational purposes. In other words, a training pitch or a gym, but not a block of flats or a tyre & exhaust outlet!
Will supporters see a difference, week by week – and if so, how soon?
Well, the deal has not been done yet! But if it is concluded, David Blackmore indicated to the shareholders’ meeting that Danny Bloor’s position as manager is not in doubt. Indeed his infectious enthusiasm is one of the things that attracted the investor to the club in the first place. He might have a little more to spend. To gain promotion, and certainly to maintain National League status, the club would need a significantly higher playing budget.
And the much-loved stadium would benefit from some tender loving care. No doubt CEO John Bonar would be happy to give any supporters a little close-season tour – and point out some bits of peeling paintwork or woodwork, or some potholes in the car park, or a kitchen in need of a refit. For supporters, all of that would be pure gain.
So what happens next? Is there a time-scale?
It’s the lull after the storm. Everything is now in the hands of solicitors, who are working flat out to get the deal across the line so Danny can start preparing for what promises to be a very exciting next season. However, this is a huge deal, and they need to get it right. Watch this space…